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Y9 CAYOM Film Festival - Audience Reactions Thread

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Bikini
dir. Kelly Richardt

 

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It's pretty hard to review a movie that you've pre-read, as you probably come in a little bit more biased than usual, thinking that you did a good job helping your fellow player find a more suitable narrative than the one they had before. At least I find that to be the case with myself, and such is with this movie, Bikini.

 

Based on a short story of the same name, Bikini is a movie about a brave person in a world where being brave wasn't always rewarding. Set in 1960's New York, it frames misogynistic outside reactions to a woman that was comfortable with her own body, including that of her own boyfriend, a theme that is sadly still resonant 6 decades after the timeframe this film is set in - the probable reason why it was made in the first place. It also tackles racism and self-blame, all in tasteful enough ways that I can see myself recommending the film for its approach to its heavy themes. Zoey Deutch and Ramy Youssef give solid performances, while the filmmaking by Kelly Richardt is focused and crisp.

 

It's not by any means the most subtle movie in the world regarding its approach to misogyny, but then again, I wasn't expecting it to be. If anything, it reaffirms how 1960's American society probably hasn't evolved much through 2022. It does feel a little bit like it was cranked out the door at a fast pace, as quite a few plot elements don't really have a lot of time to breathe and can feel a little empty, due to the film's short narrative (despite the slower pace). Also, to echo the festival judges' reactions, certain characters feel like walking tropes. Can't say that it was the movie that emotionally engaged me the most, but with that said, I'd still say check out Bikini for sure. It's a solid watch that reminds us of the struggles that women had to go through and still go through, and yet, also sends a positive message to all women in the world that want to feel free.

 

It's also a massive improvement from the very dodgy original short story, which I did read and heavily advised the filmmakers to change a few things up. They did, and the result is evident, even if, at the end of the day, the source material's iffiness meant it would never be easy to make something great out of this. This isn't great, but good job nonetheless.

 

Spoiler

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Shadow of the Comet
dir. Harold Kingsley

 

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Similarly to last year's The Insect God, Shadow of the Comet is an original, low-budget animation film by Fossil Record Animation that tries to explore rich, dark layers of Humanity's complex relationships, whether that be with nature or with itself. In this case, it follows the story of a man who finds himself in a post-apocalyptic landscape and heads down to a refugee camp with a newfound survivor friend.

 

The premisse and the themes it tackles are certainly fertile ground for some interesting commentary on the unleveled instability of the social class system, claimed by the rich to take away from the poor, with the smart choice of utilizing a post-apocalyptic refugee camp to send the message of chaos as a consequence of societal disorder. However, it also loses a lot of ground by being extremely cliched, with underdeveloped characters - only Samuel L. Jackson's protagonist sort of escapes, and even he feels like many other protagonists of his type - and paper thin writing that fails to properly flesh out the characters and plot's motivations and goals, which ultimately make this movie feel ambitious, but washed out.

 

The same kind of criticisms were generally thrown at The Insect God, but whereas I fell in the camp of enjoying that film, because it actually had some genuinely sympathetic characters, as well as worldbuilding and thematic originality so unique and massive to its specific genre that it deserved praise, this just feels like a generic sci-fi story with an extra layer of philosophy of science that the studio cranked out in order to meet demands for the film festival. It's not awful - I do like Sam Jackson, and I also like the surface-level themes - but it feels undercooked.

 

Its biggest issues are certainly the antagonist, who is every single evil totalitarian rich guy you could write blindfolded - not that totalitarianism and billionaire tyrants aren't easy and obvious foils, but there could be an attempt to write actual characters instead of these walking tropes - and the culmination, which comes at a point where you think the movie would be in the climax of its second act, but was actually in its third act conclusion, in what was the most sudden ending of Y9 yet. Shame, because the film began with promise, despite the immediate red signs of "yeah, I've seen this before", but hey, I was down for a decent sci-fi story. This one leaves a lot to be desired.

 

Spoiler

**

 

 

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Go-Kart Gottlieb
dir. Tom Tykwer

 

Spoiler

 

New Journey Pictures makes way for a new game in town, Studio Groundswell, run by the same folk. And if some names change, old habits don't. Go-Kart Gottlieb is certainly worth putting in the same ballpark as old New Journey joints like Yin, Yang or Higher Ground in the echelon of "waking fever dreams that were written by someone on a sugar rush." But whereas Yin had a compelling, heartfelt story whose fantastical elements were logical and enhanced the themes at hand, or Higher Ground was a "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks" kitchen-sink approach that was still an ambitious attempt at exploring PTSD, this is more like White Wyvern - a nonsensical mess that ups everything to a tee and falls flat in its attempts at resonating with the viewer emotionally. It's not as bad as that other movie by any means, but trust me: you'll get flashbacks of it more than a few times.

 

It starts off promising, with a captivating opening scene that hints at a cliched but certainly entertaining, gorgeous-looking sports movie. But once people start as much as talking, we understand that the filmmakers are way in over their heads with what they actually want out of this ill-fated dramedy. Similar complaints have been thrown around about other movies from the studio that preceded Groundswell: characters are turned up to a full 100 and feel like film caricatures and less so like real people. While this doesn't do a full White Wyvern in that direction, you can still feel that it's way, way overwritten to where characters have such ridiculous attitudes and decisions that it's laughable. I couldn't help but giggle and facepalm at moments that were supposed to be sad and felt so forced and stupid - and yet still, thank God the filmmakers conned the original cut of the film, which featured a plot twist so tasteless that it bordered on offensive; now, the movie is at least just funny bad. Every plot turn tries harder and harder than the last one, the filmmakers failing to realize that a movie is more movie when it's "less movie", if that makes any sense. It all coalesces into a third act that decides to just say "fuck it" and go totally apeshit in a complete shift of tonal direction - I'll say the movie deserves props for the audacity to pull something like that off. Meanwhile, Matthias Schweighöfer's performance is pretty good, I like the idea of a German-language festival entry, and that's all she wrote as far as positives are concerned.

 

This is a pretty bad movie. A comical mess that is at least a mesmerizing trainwreck, and in a way, I'm glad it turned out to be this and not just the predictable yet cool go-karting dramedy I expected it to be after its promising opening scene, cause at least I laughed my ass off - and, for the filmmakers, not in a good way. It boasts a few unironically positive traits but mostly delivers as a so-bad-it's-good romp. To its credit, it is far from being a White Wyvern-sized debacle, but it's still a wrong-footed start for this new studio.

 

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My apologies for the long wait! I’m on the go so I don’t have access to spoiler boxes. Scores will be added during Y9’s review process.

 

THE NEXT GOOD DAY @MCKillswitch123

A charming film will strong characters and performances by everyone in the cast, with Kirsten Dunst being a standout! The film also has adventurous editing between past, present, and future which I appreciated. I do wish that the scope was a little fuller; the film is so restrained on these characters that I was hoping to see more about their world for the film to feel more cinematic; either that or dial back on dialogue to focus on the image; with the film’s emphasis on hands, focusing more on the hands would be cool. But I am overall very positive on this film!

 

DEATH IS NOT MY FRIEND

I love a good spooky art house drama! Though I felt that this was longer than it needed to be and pushed and pulled in a lot of different directions, I appreciated the film for how atmospheric it was and everything it said about death. Natalie Dyer’s is my favorite of the performances.

 

SHADOW OF THE COMET @El Squibbonator

For an animation film to tackle this subject matter is bold and ambitious, and I liked that Samuel L. Jackson was in the lead role. Him being the lead makes me think of his role as Mace Windu in the Star Wars prequels, cuz I imagine he might be dialing back on the expletives. But I think the story ended a little too early; it could have included more story events and a more show-stopping climax in order to further explore its themes. Looking forward to what this animation team does next!

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